Imagine standing under a towering forest canopy, streams of light coming through the leaves and the gentle twitter of birds coming from the woods surrounding you. This is a beautifully tranquil experience, which everyone should have at least once in their life. The Headwaters Forest Reserve, just south of Eureka, offers an ideal setting for this experience. The reserve serves as a habitat for threatened animals, such as the marbled murrelet and the coho salmon. There are two different sections to this 7,500-acre forest.
The northern section is open from dawn to dusk for anyone wanting a pleasurable hike through the redwoods along the Elk River Trail. It is an 11-mile hike past streams, the south fork of the Elk River and several magnificent old-growth stands. The Elk River Trail is a wilderness area, and wild animals such as bear and mountain lion do inhabit the region.
One mile into the Elk River Trail hike you will find the remains of what was once a mill town called Falk, named after its founder Noah Falk, who migrated here in the late 1800s during the Gold Rush. Upon arrival Falk was enamored with the redwoods and came to see them as his own form of gold. He built a sawmill on the site, and a town with a population of nearly 400 sprung up around it. The mill and the town operated for nearly 30 years until the Great Depression in 1937, when the mill shut down and the town followed shortly after. Through the mid 1900s Falk was a ghost town, and in 1979 the buildings were finally taken down due to liability factors. Today, hikers along the Elk River Trail can see traces of the town. Interpretative signs along the trail point out the sites where the mill and the town’s buildings once stood. Now all that remain are haunting foundations, ghostly relics of metal machinery left behind, and the giant stumps of age-old trees.
The other portion of the reserve, the southern end, can only be accessed on a BLM-led guided hike, beginning at Newburg Park in Fortuna.